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Corné Blaauw

Johann Friedrich Stapfer (1708-1775): Reformed Orthodoxy and Theological Rationalism
Johann Friedrich Stapfer 1708-1775
Johann Friedrich Stapfer 1708-1775

Born and bred into a famous family of pastors, Johann Friedrich Stapfer, a Swiss pastor from Brugg, spent all his life asking three simple questions: “how do we distinguish between truth and error?” ; “what are the foundations of true religion?” ; and, “How should we live?” By the end of his life, he had dealt with these questions in a staggering 25 volumes written in Latin and German and translated into Dutch. He was a representative of

Reformed theology in the phase of Later Orthodoxy (1700-1775) abandoned the old classical synthesis between eclectic Aristotelianism and Reformed theology, supplanting it with a new synthesis with either the Cartesianism of Saumer, or the Leibniz-Wolffian philosophy. Meanwhile, during the Enlightenment many streams of philosophy of religion produced thinkers and schools of thought that one really ought to characterize as “rationalist theology.”

In the eighteenth century, many considered Stapfer one of the foremost European theologians, and as such, he had influence on Jonathan Edwards, Immanuel Kant, Bernhardus de Moor, Archibald Alexander, and a whole generation of Dutch Reformed ministers and theologians. Stapfer’s 1742 dissertation on Naturalism later formed the largest part of his first published book in five volumes, Institutiones theologiae polemicae universae (Zurich, 1743-47). In Stapfer's view Naturalism was the most powerful weapon of unbelief. Noticing the central place Stapfer afforded to Naturalism, we will investigate it as a case study of rationalism.

This study proceeds on the bias that theology finds its expression within a philosophical mould, which functions as presuppositions. The question under consideration here is whether the Leibniz-Wolff synthesis experiment was a good idea for Reformed thought, both theologically and apologetically. With these considerations in mind, we study Stapfer to answer the big questions in a small way by simply asking, “What is the relationship between Reformed orthodoxy and theological rationalism?”  

Corné Blaauw
Laatst gewijzigd:02 februari 2018 13:24